2 towers in new downtown Scottsdale proposal - East Valley Tribune: News

2 towers in new downtown Scottsdale proposal

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Posted: Wednesday, May 21, 2008 5:33 pm | Updated: 10:06 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Westcor and Scottsdale Healthcare will be two of the largest beneficiaries of Scottsdale's new downtown plan under a proposal that would allow them to build towers approaching the height of the Scottsdale Waterfront condos.

GRAPHIC: View a map of proposals for downtown Scottsdale

Westcor and Scottsdale Healthcare will be two of the largest beneficiaries of Scottsdale's new downtown plan under a proposal that would allow them to build towers approaching the height of the Scottsdale Waterfront condos.

Click to view a map of the proposals

An early version of the downtown plan states there is "general community acceptance" to allow 10- to 12-story buildings next to Scottsdale Fashion Square and within the Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn hospital campus.

The buildings would be an estimated 110 to 132 feet tall, or slightly below the 143-foot Scottsdale Waterfront towers and nearby Amtrust Building.

Plans also show the downtown boundaries could be expanded in three locations, giving greater zoning flexibility in allowing up to 65-foot tall residences or a 72-foot high hotel closer to established residences.

The plan - expected to guide downtown growth over the next couple of decades - has been in the works for nearly a year with focus groups, public workshops, walking audits and business forums.

As recently as February, the plan was targeted to be adopted by the City Council this spring. Most recently, the plan was to be debated by the council in June, with a final vote in the fall. But in the last week, the city decided to push back the first public hearings on the plan until at least September.

John Lusardi, Scottsdale's director of advance planning, said the 10-to-12-story height limits are not guaranteed to be included in the final plan.

"We are trying to address the future of that," Lusardi said. "Whether it will be 10 to 12 stories, I don't know."

Both Westcor, which manages Scottsdale Fashion Square, and Scottsdale Healthcare said they would involve the community in whatever plans they pursue. Both said it would be appropriate to allow that height on their property.

The increased height would affect Westcor's 12-acre site next to the mall that includes a Days Inn, Coco's and the Desert Stages Theater. The site has been slated for redevelopment.

Robyn Young, assistant vice president of development relations for Westcor, said the company is very early in its thinking for that property and no submittals have been made.

"We do believe the intersection of Scottsdale and Camelback roads has become and should remain the focused urban hub of downtown," Young said.

Michelle Pabis, Scottsdale Healthcare's director of government relations, said a hospital has unique operating characteristics that require greater height. She said it's more efficient to move patients and medical staff up and down a building rather than over a ground-level campus.

While the downtown plan proposes allowing up to 12 stories throughout the medical district, Pabis said the intention is not to build multiple towers.

"The only area we are looking at for greater additional height is on the actual hospital tower itself," Pabis said.

The Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce, which has supported the increased height that has come with downtown investment, said it will not take positions until there is an actual set of plans, and will evaluate any on a project-by-project basis.

"We have a recognition that ... it's going to be necessary to go higher in order to continue economic growth in the community but we also recognize there are places it belongs and places it doesn't," chamber president Rick Kidder said.

But allowing greater heights downtown have caused a rift in the community and has been talked about on the campaign trail leading up to the Sept. 2 mayor and City Council elections.

It also triggered a referendum involving the Hanover residential and retail development, where sufficient signatures were gathered, but a judge threw out the initiative because of filing errors.

While Mayor Mary Manross and Councilman Jim Lane both expressed concern at the proposed building heights, the third mayoral candidate, John Washington, has been the most outspoken.

Washington, who opposes increased height and density, said this downtown plan process was "hijacked," with members of the development community having too great a presence.

"It wasn't targeted at the simple resident in the community," Washington said. "The result that came out reflects what (the city) wants to have happen."

Lusardi said there is no plan to change the current height limits of 65 feet for residences and 72 feet for hotels, outside the mall and hospital sites.

As for the boundary extensions, one is on the southeast corner of 68th Street and Camelback Road, site of the vacant Orchidtree Apartments. A condo project had been proposed there, but it has been stalled.

Other proposed expansions are the shopping center site on the southwest corner of Camelback and Miller roads, and south of Earll Drive, west of Scottsdale Road.

Those extensions would allow projects to be up to 65 and 72 feet in those zones. Today, only a 36-foot building would be allowed there.

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